Anyone with ambitions to work as a security operative in the UK would be advised to see whether they need an Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence and, if so, what kind of licence is required for the work in question. Operating in the private security industry without a licence could be illegal.

For example, if the work you intend to do involves a licensable activity and is part of a contract for services, you will need a front line SIA licence. Licensed activities include the likes of manned guarding, key holding and vehicle immobilisation (in Northern Ireland only).

If you are going to be working in-house, however, you do not typically need a licence, as you will be employed directly by the company that’s using your services. That being said, there are two licensable activities where a licence is required – door supervision at a licensed premises and vehicle immobilising (in Northern Ireland only).

There are also some situations where a licence is not required. For example, you don’t need a licence to volunteer as long as there’s a written or spoken agreement that you won’t be rewarded for your work. 

You also don’t need one if you’re performing stewarding duties or to check if people have paid for entry to an event or that they’ve been invited. In order to refuse them entry or make them leave, a licence is required, however.

There are two types of SIA licence – front line and non-front line. A front line licence is required if you personally perform a licensable front line activity as part of the job role. These usually come as a plastic photocard that must be worn while working. The key holding licence, however, comes in the form of a letter.

A non-front line is required if you manage or employ anyone who performs licensable activities as part of their job, or if you’re a company director or partner where others in that company or firm perform licensable activities for their job.

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